Dozens of eligible underclassmen have or will announce in the coming weeks that they are leaving early for the NFL, with each carrying various degrees of impact on their respective team’s prospects for the 2013 season.
This one will likely have as big of an impact as any other.
Largely overlooked and undervalued outside of Chapel Hill specifically and the ACC in general over the past two seasons, Giovani Bernard announced that he has decided to leave North Carolina and enter the 2013 NFL draft. The running back, who likely would’ve been included in the preseason Heisman mix, is foregoing his final two years of eligibility to make the leap.
A press conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. ET today for Bernard to discuss the decision.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my three years in Chapel Hill and coming to UNC was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” said Bernard in a statement released ahead of the press conference. “I feel like the best decision for my future is to enter the NFL draft this year. I want to thank Coach Fedora, this coaching staff and the previous coaching staff for putting me in a position to succeed. I am on track to graduate and I plan on coming back to earn my degree in the Spring of 2014.”
A torn ACL suffered during summer camp cost Bernard all of his true freshman season in 2010, but the redshirt sophomore came back to earn All-ACC first-team honors the past two seasons. He led the conference in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yardage in 2012, and led the nation in punt returns average (16.4 yards per).
He accomplished all of that this season despite missing two games with a left knee issue.
“Gio is a special player and an even better person,” said UNC head coach Larry Fedora. “He flourished in our offense and was an outstanding leader for our program. After the season was over, we helped him gather as much information as possible so he and his family could make the best decision for his future. We support his decision and wish him nothing but success as he takes the next step in his football career. He is a tremendous ambassador for this program.”
Depending on which direction other players at his position take before the mid-January deadline, the 5-10, 205-pound Bernard could be the first running back selected in the upcoming draft.
There was a flurry of future schedule changes announced by several college football programs on Thursday afternoon but one of the most curious releases came from TCU and Purdue.
The Horned Frogs and Boilermakers jointly announced a new home-and-home series and the most interesting thing about that was not that the two teams would play at Ross-Ade Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019, but that the second half of the pairing would take place in Fort Worth… a decade later on Sept. 8, 2029. We’ve become used to teams scheduling years and years in advance but even this seems a bit much. Given how fluid some of these games are, one wonders if the teams will even play that second date, much less have their two head coaches around for it.
“Having played and coached under Howard Schnellenberger, I am a firm believer in playing the most competitive schedule you can on a yearly basis,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said in a release. “TCU has a great history and tradition, and certainly fits the criteria of an outstanding non-conference opponent. We look forward to the matchup.”
While the two schools are on opposite ends of the standings on a regular basis, the meeting in two years could be intriguing given Brohm’s high-scoring offense going up against TCU’s Gary Patterson’s renown defensive schemes. At this point though, it’s probably not even worth the effort to pencil in either of the two for that meeting in 2029, which is one of the more unique scheduling dates on the college football calendar.
Thursday was a day of scheduling announcements for the Ohio State football program.
Both OSU and Washington announced this afternoon that the schools have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. The Huskies will play host to the first game of the series on Sept. 7, 2024, with the Buckeyes returning the favor Sept. 13, 2025.
The teams have met 11 times previously, the first in 1957 and the last in 2007. All of those games have been played during the regular season.
“Big, early-season matchups between traditional powers is a highlight of every college football season,” said UW head coach Chris Petersen in a statement. “I’m really excited that we’ll be able to bring the Buckeyes to Seattle for what should be a great September afternoon for Husky fans and college football fans everywhere.”
Additionally, OSU announced that its home-and-home with TCU scheduled for the 2018 and 2019 seasons will be pared in half to just one game — a neutral-site matchup Sept. 15, 2018, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Both teams will receive $5 million for playing the game at Jerry World.
With the 2019 game with TCU off the schedule, OSU has confirmed that they have replaced that game with one against Miami of Ohio. Concurrently, TCU announced that it has replaced the second game against OSU with the front-end of a home-and-home with Purdue in West Lafayette. The back-end is scheduled to be played a decade later in Fort Worth.
There are also a couple of additional scheduling notes dropped by OSU this afternoon.
- The home-and-home with Boston College, originally slated for 2023 and 2024, has been pushed back. The Buckeyes will be the home team for a game on Sept. 19, 2026, and then travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., on Sept. 18, 2027.
- A home game against Bowling Green Sept. 5, 2020, has been added.
- A home game against Tulsa Sept. 18, 2021, has been added as well.
At least on one level, common sense will continue to prevail in big-time college football.
Ahead of the first College Football Playoff championship game after the 2014 regular season, the CFP announced that it would provide a travel stipend of $2,500 for the parents/guardians of up to 100 players from each team playing in the title game. The past two years, those stipends were expanded to include the playoff semifinals as well.
Moving into the the fourth year of the playoff structure, the stipend will remain in place.
It’s assumed that the travel stipend will again be extended to 125 parents/guardians for the two semifinal games as well as title tilt, the same number that’s been in place each of the last two years.
For the 2015 playoffs, a total of $1.5 million was doled out to players’ families. There was a similar figure for the 2016 playoffs.
Over the 12-year life of the contract it reached an agreement on in November of 2012, it’s believed ESPN will pay in excess of $7 billion for the right to broadcast the playoffs as well as the so-called New Year’s Six bowl games.
One final bit of CFP housekeeping while we’re here as the dates for the releases of the 2017 playoff selection committee rankings were announced. The first set of Top 25 rankings will, appropriately enough, be released on Halloween night.
The greatest rivalry in all of sports never takes a break, even during the offseason on an entirely different continent.
One day after he showered Pope Francis with some Michigan-themed gear, Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines conducted the first on-field practice of their Italian road trip. There were some “spies” in their midst, however, as a handful of Ohio State fans clad in Buckeyes colors drove a couple of hours to take in their enemy’s practice.
“I’ve still got my eyes on those guys,” an amused Harbaugh said. “Still a little suspicious.”
The fans, though, came in peace, with one even offering kind words for what the head coach has meant to The Game.
“We love the Big Ten,” Alicia Sexton, a military teacher based in Naples and a graduate of OSU, told the Detroit News. “We really are appreciative to Jim Harbaugh. We love that the rivalry is back, and it makes watching the game in November fun. Harbaugh has definitely brought the rivalry back.”